The wake-up call to climate change has been growing in recent years. We can notice its effects on the planet and its impact on human life. Issues like rising temperatures continue to affect our natural world. The climate crisis also threatens access to clean water, clean air, and necessities. According to the World Health Organisation, the climate crisis will likely cause about 250,000 additional deaths per year between 2030 and 2050.
People are realizing that as much as companies need to change, individual responsibility is also crucial. Through individual change comes collective change. The more people become aware and concerned about the climate crisis, and demand better, industries will be forced to alter their processes. For change to occur, awareness needs to be backed with action.
From melting glaciers to record life-taking heatwaves threatening our natural world, now is our time to step up and prevent the worst. Below we’ve rounded up some climate change documentaries that we believe you need to watch to educate, inspire and share.
Below, we’ve highlighted some of the best climate change documentaries for you to watch.
We’re starting the list of climate change documentaries with this Academy Award-winning documentary. An Inconvenient Truth was released in 2006, and it documents former US vice president Al Gore’s message about the climate crisis.
The film serves as a version of presentations that Al Gore gives to address issues like global warming. It highlights how human activity contributes to large amounts of greenhouse gas emissions. It addresses the science and facts behind climate change and uses data to back up claims.
Years after the first documentary, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, was released. An Inconvenient Truth features Al Gore’s message that seeks to serve as a wake-up call to the reality of global warming. The film also addresses issues like the connection between rising sea temperatures and extreme events like Hurricane Katrina. By debunking misconceptions and providing evidence, it has helped to increase public awareness.
An Inconvenient Sequel serves as a follow-up to the initial documentary as Al Gore continues his travels around the world to educate people. The sequel sets the bar for immediate action rather than delay to curb the effects of climate change.
Stream on Amazon (or available on DVD)
Related: We answer: how much does the Earth cost?
You’ve probably guessed from the title that Cowspiracy addresses animal farming. It’s no secret that animal agriculture is one of the significant contributors to climate change. Many people believe that their meat-based diets have no significant impact on the earth. However, Cowspiracy digs deep to raise awareness about the effects of the livestock industry on global warming.
This industry also contributes to deforestation, land and water pollution, and greenhouse gases. The livestock industry also uses significant water consumption, causing resource depletion. Interestingly, the documentary reveals that influential leaders and authorities were unwilling to openly discuss this industry’s impact. This raises further questions about the effects animal agriculture has on planet earth. To reduce your environmental impact, the film advocates for a plant-based diet. Eating less meat helps to tackle climate change by reducing greenhouse gases from the food industry.
Cowspiracy is one of the best climate change documentaries that discuss animal agriculture. This film argues that choosing plants is a necessary step in protecting the earth.
Stream on Amazon (also available on DVD)
Related: Check out our vegan and vegetarian quotes for plant-based diet inspiration
Before the Flood is a climate documentary presented by National Geographic to discuss this industry’s impact openly. Hollywood actor and UN Messenger of Peace, Leonardo DiCaprio, features in the documentary. In the documentary, Leonardo Dicaprio encourages people to educate themselves on climate issues rather than being complacent.
The film follows Leonardo DiCaprio as he journeys around the world, through five continents, to visit key areas affected by the climate crisis. Through this, Before the Flood addresses the devastating effects of climate change on planet earth. In the film, DiCaprio interviews a host of world leaders and experts. Some of these people include Barack Obama, John Kerry, and Pope Francis. Experts include economists, scholars, ecologists, and climatologists. For even more famous names adding to the all-star lineup, the film was executive produced by Martin Scorcese.
Related: Be further inspired by climate change quotes from some of these players and more.
DiCaprio visited locations like the melting glaciers in the Arctic and Greenland and the Sumatran rainforest throughout his two-year journey. Before the Flood provokes the need for a global response to mitigate the worst effects of climate change. The film seeks to encourage action on the part of individuals and international leaders.
Stream on Amazon (also available on DVD)
Kiss the Ground is a Netflix documentary that sheds light on regenerative agriculture. Narrated by Woody Harrelson, Kiss the Ground addresses the damages that industrial agriculture causes to the earth and climate. The film highlights the regenerative farming method as a solution to balancing our climate. Through regenerative agricultural practices, we can aid the process of the soil in capturing carbon.
As a result, this reduces the number of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and reduces global warming effects. In turn, this reduces the intensity of climate change. Woody Harrelson points to regular agricultural practices that affect soil fertility and, therefore, destabilize the earth's climate. Kiss the Ground goes on to unpack the need to switch the way we practice agriculture. It encourages embracing techniques like waste management, permaculture, and composting.
Through the website, you can register to become a soil advocate by going through training. Kiss the Ground is more than a film but a call to action to embrace and “join the regeneration.”
RiverBlue draws our attention to the impact of fast fashion on our planet, specifically the world’s rivers. The film follows Mark Angelo, a Canadian river conservationist, as he travels around the world. The purpose of this travel and film is to explore the effects of fast fashion production on rivers.
This documentary gives us a look into garment factory hotspots like Bangladesh, India, Zambia, China, Indonesia, and the United States. Through this lens, we’re able to see the pollution that factories cause.
Not only do these production processes affect planet earth, but they also affect the local communities. The reason is that people can no longer depend on these polluted rivers for survival. The garment industry uses a lot of toxic dyes that, unfortunately, tend to pour into rivers. This is especially prevalent in countries where environmental regulations are weak or even non-existent. RiverBlue gives us a close look into colored and chemical-filled rivers.
Apart from its impact on the people, pollution also leads to the death of marine life. To give a sense of hope, the film also provides us with a look into eco-conscious sustainable fashion brands and companies developing techniques to reduce the devastating effect of garment production.
Fast fashion is one of the major culprits of environmental degradation. The industry contributes to air pollution, water pollution, and greenhouse gases emissions. Also, many indigenous communities end up suffering from the effects. This documentary takes us on a journey around the world to see the people and places behind our clothes. The purpose is to show us the real price behind the clothes we purchase.
From climate change issues to ethical concerns, The True Cost provides eye-opening information. The documentary gives us front-row seats to view behind-the-scenes of cloth production. It shows us the alarming environmental and social effects of the fast fashion industry. This will leave you questioning the items you currently own.
The film shows us life within the garment factories. It presents the hazardous working conditions that garment workers are subjected to. The film also highlights how developing countries suffer from these processes. The True Cost shows us the contrast between the slums in which clothes are made and the flashy runways. This film also features interviews with leading influencers.
Related: Check out our guide to online thrift stores for second-hand fashion finds that reduce environmental harm.
2040 presents an optimistic approach to what our world could look like if we implement technologies to address climate change. Out of concern for his daughter’s future, the director, Damon Gameau, traveled around the world. The purpose was to discover innovative ways we can use to tackle climate change and move away from supporting the fossil fuel industry. Through this journey, he met with changemakers who are developing new ways to address climate issues.
Some of the sustainable efforts the documentary addresses include regenerative farming, marine permaculture, and renewable energy inventions driving the change. These processes can help us significantly reduce emissions that contribute to climate change. The filmmakers present the film in a way that shows us practical approaches to a better and healthier planet. Rather than presenting drastic changes that we need to make, it presents progressive and easy-to-implement approaches.
This way, people can clearly see the possibilities of change. 2040 is unique because it presents hypothetical landscapes to visually demonstrate what the world could look like through change. This leaves the guessing game out and shows you what our future can look like if we take care of the planet.
Available on DVD from Amazon or Streaming on Youtube (paid)
This short documentary focuses on siblings Juliette and Howard and their life on a sinking island. Isle de Jean Charles is a sinking island in Louisiana that could disappear due to rising sea levels.
Unlike many climate or nature documentaries, this one gives us insights into the personalities of its subjects. The purpose is to provide us with a human feel rather than generalizing the message of climate change. Juliette and Howard are the last teenagers on their island, and they struggle with the possibility of moving out of their home. Due to the rising seas and the rate at which the island is sinking, the residents could soon become climate refugees.
The predominantly Native American community continues to watch its population decline due to the changes. As the documentary explores climate change, we get further insights into the theme of home loss from the lens of young people.
Our Planet is a Netflix documentary that consists of eight parts, making it a mini-series. Through the course of the eight episodes. Sir David Attenborough narrates this documentary, giving us insights into the diversity of habitats on our planet. From the wilderness to deep beneath the oceans, we get to see the human impact on wildlife populations.
Our Planet focuses on how rising sea levels and temperatures are affecting biodiversity. It explores how the climate crisis is affecting creatures on land and in the sea. The film highlights a decline in wildlife and how plants are also being affected. As you journey through the eight episodes, you’ll get to see oceans, forests, jungles, and deserts. You’ll then see how changes in our world are affecting habitats on land and water. Our Planet shows us earth’s beauty while educating us on how we’re disrupting it. If you’re looking to explore various habitats, this documentary takes you on that journey.
Chasing Coral offers a close focus on the disappearance of coral reefs around the world. Without these reefs, underwater habitats will be disrupted, and coastal erosion will be intense.
Chasing Coral documents the journey of photographers, scientists, and divers around the globe as they examine the disappearance of reefs. Ocean acidification, global warming, and rising sea temperatures are significant threats to reefs. These effects cause coral bleaching that has dramatically impacted coral life on Australia's Great Barrier Reef and throughout the tropics. Rather than isolating the impact of climate change on coral reefs, the film creates a connection between ecosystems.
This documentary is a must-watch for anyone interested in diving into the world of corals. It shows corals in their different colors, shapes, and sizes. The documentary captures the beauty of this ecosystem and makes an exemplary case for action before reefs disappear entirely. It juxtaposes beautiful coral reef images with devastating ones of the damages that are occurring.
Named after young climate activist Greta Thunberg, I Am Greta follows her as she demands climate justice. Inspiring both younger and older generations, this documentary shows that age is not a prerequisite to care about the planet. Or, for that matter, create a global activist movement. The film follows Greta as she takes it upon herself to get people to take climate discussions seriously. She gained public interest after organizing a one-person strike at her school to demand climate justice.
In the film, we see Greta as she lends her voice at significant gatherings like the UN Climate Action Summit. She has become a leading voice for her generation as she continues to impact other people to take action. The film presents our choices in front of us. Some of these choices include those related to the use of fossil fuels and what we eat. By examining our choices, we can dissect whether they are sustainable or not.
Streaming Varies by Country list here
A follow-up to the original nature documentary, Blue Planet II takes us deeper into the oceans. The second film shows us more of the beauty that lies deeper within the oceans and seas compared to the first part. Rather than stopping at nature’s beauty, the final episode of this mini-series rallies our collective concern into action. It addresses the damage that climate change and plastic waste cause to marine life and habitats.
About two-thirds of the earth’s surface is covered in water, and most of what we know is surface-based. Blue Planet I and II take us on a journey to explore the oceans. Global warming affects the nature of oceans worldwide. Human actions, like waste production, also contribute to this. The ‘war on plastics’ has been ongoing for some time now. However, it’s important now, more than ever, for more people to take the situation seriously. The last episode of the film also explores coral bleaching and the reasons behind it.
This film dissects climate change as a problem with consequences to our lives. Over a couple of months, the filmmakers traveled to various countries to examine the climate change effects. This documentary shows us how people constantly have to leave their homes due to catastrophic climate events.
Such events include droughts and rising sea levels. Rather than viewing an issue like global warming as distant, we can see how it directly affects people. The film also shows us how extremely unfavorable weather conditions affect food supplies. Watching this, you’ll see chats with people in various communities. You’ll also watch discussions with a host of activists, scientists, relief workers, and popular figures.
Stream in full for free on YouTube
With a data-driven and straightforward approach to information sharing, this BBC documentary featuring David Attenborough is comprehensive. It highlights the world’s current situation while presenting the glaring effects human activities have on earth. Apart from the data it provides, Climate Change: The Facts also features interview sessions with various climate activists and scientists. As a result, it’s a great starting point to become more aware of our current situation. It also dives into stories like the displacement of communities due to extreme weather occurrences.
While presenting data and facts, the documentary also suggests solutions to this global crisis. It is educational, genuinely insightful, and action-provoking.
Available on BBC I Player (UK)
Are you looking for more inspiration on your climate activism or eco-conscious journey? These documentaries will provide you with the information you need. From the effects of fast fashion to the livestock industry and everything in-between, there’s a lot to learn.
These documentaries not only educate us but also serve as drivers for sustainable change in our world. Climate change affects us all and our activities impact not only the planet’s health but also people and the animal kingdom. We need to educate ourselves and stay informed. This helps us to establish more discussions that’ll bring about positive change.
Jen’s a passionate environmentalist and sustainability expert. With a science degree from Babcock University Jen loves applying her research skills to craft editorial that connects with our global changemaker and readership audiences centered around topics including zero waste, sustainability, climate change, and biodiversity.
Elsewhere Jen’s interests include the role that future technology and data have in helping us solve some of the planet’s biggest challenges.